[Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images]
A visit to James “Dr Doom” Andrews is cause for concern. So Rafael Soriano went to see the good doctor today. The verdict: Soriano will be out 6-8 weeks.
Could have been worse…thank goodness for David Robertson.
The story of the past week has been pitching, in a number of facets. But which pitcher was THE story? Let’s take a look at the items up for bid …
* Mariano Rivera blew two consecutive saves after converting his first seven save opportunities and looking as superhuman as ever. And he wasn’t booed, because these saves were a) blown on the road; and b) didn’t come against the Red Sox at home.
* Rafael Soriano, however, was booed, and deservedly so, during and after Tuesday’s 8th inning meltdown. Strong pieces at ESPN New York by Johnette Howard and the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Barbarisi on Soriano’s fragility.
* Phil Hughes went to the DL, tried to throw, his arm was a noodle, and now a mysterious shoulder ailment that may or may not be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is being discussed as a possible diagnosis. Compression of either the nerves, artery or vein in the clavicle area signify TOS. One of the possible causes of the “repetitive trauma”. The pitching motion classifies as repetitive trauma. In more severe TOS cases, surgery is required. Former Yankee Kenny Rogers had surgery to repair TOS in 2001. He came back and pitched seven more seasons.
* Pedro Feliciano, it was great to meet you. Who is Lance Pendleton?
* Bartolo Colon, who many believed should have been in the rotation anyway based on his performance in Spring Training, replaced Hughes and tossed an 8-inning gem. Even more impressive was the consistency of his velocity: 95 in the early going, and 96 in the later innings. Is he the Yankees best pitcher right now, as Wally Matthews suggests? Maybe.
* Freddy Garcia, who pitches tonight, has a matching WHIP and ERA (0.69), and has allowed just 5 hits in 13 IP thus far.
* AJ Burnett may be the best story of all. He suffered a hard luck loss on Monday because the Yankees’ offense is ineffective against pitchers that a) they’ve never seen before; b) pitch like Mike Mussina in the 86-89 mph range, but change speeds and have movement on their pitches. Despite the team result, he may have pitched his best game of the season. The question, as it always is with Mr. Allan James Burnett, is consistency. Will he breathe out of the correct eyelids in May?
* Ivan Nova proved he may be able to get past five innings. Small sample size, yes. But still …
* And of course, there’s CC Sabathia. He’s the ace, the grinder, and the guy who more often than not, somehow makes the right pitch to wriggle out of jams. An ace isn’t always a dominant strikeout pitcher. The main job, keep the opposition off the scoreboard and give your offense a chance to support you. He did it Thursday, just as he did so many times the previous two seasons.
Of those guys, which story had the greatest impact? My vote is for Hughes, because of the trickle-down effect it’s caused in the rotation. If Colon and Garcia keep this up, they get the Aaron Small / Shawn Chacon Memorial “Surprise MVPs” Award.
Feel free to agree / disagree below, in Comments.
[Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP]
… for the new Yankees to make an impact, both on the field and in the media.
Case #1: Russell Martin has proven, at least through one week, to be the kind of stopgap pickup the Yankees needed in order to transition Jorge Posada to the Designated Hitter role, and allow Jesus Montero to develop further in the minor leagues. He’s shown a deftness at handling the pitching staff — in particular AJ Burnett — and is hitting well enough to give opponents pause when reaching the 8th or 9th spot in the batting order.
[And on a side note (Emma Span will appreciate this), am I the only one relieved that the Yankees don't put their players' last names on their jerseys? The Dodgers, like the Red Sox, do not embroider last names their home whites but do so for their road greys, and the "J Martin" on Russell Martin's #55 always confused me until I reviewed his profile page on Baseball Reference. He did it starting in the 2009 World Baseball Classic to honor his mother's maiden name, Jeanson, and then carried that through to the Dodgers. Here, no last name on the jersey, no confusion.]
Case #2: Rafael Soriano. There were reported warnings over the winter about Soriano’s volatile personality, but take that with a grain of salt, since the Yankees have employed award winners in that category like Raul Mondesi, Jeff Weaver and Kevin Brown, to name a few. After Soriano’s first blown hold — I’m waiting for that stat to become a boxscore staple — he pulled a Boomer Wells and left the ballpark Monday without talking to the media. He apologized the next day, but that kind of behavior, in New York especially, is like throwing live bait into a shark tank. Fans allowed Wells to get away with it because at least there was a track record of success with the Yankees: a perfect game, World Series titles, etc. Soriano had one strong setup outing for Mariano Rivera to that point.
Perhaps he got squeezed a bit on the calling of balls and strikes. Some umps will do that. Own up to the fact that you didn’t make the pitches, be accountable and man up. Talking to the media is part of a professional athlete’s job, same as going down to the clubhouse to speak to players and coaches after the game is part of a reporter’s job. Soriano placed more of a focus on himself and extended the news cycle for really, two more days, due to Wednesday’s rainout. Until he proves otherwise, questions abound whether he’ll ditch the media again after another implosion in the future.
It’s right for reporters and columnists to draw that conclusion. Soriano brought it on himself.
IN OTHER NEWS…
* Congratulations to friend of the Banter Larry Koestler, whose insightful post at YankeeAnalysts on Phil Hughes’ cutter landed him a guest spot on ESPN.com’s SweetSpot podcast, with Eric Karabell and Keith Law.
Let’s see what happens with that pitch against the winless Red Sox.
* Mark Teixeira is a 3-run homer machine.
* Strange-but-true stat: AJ Burnett is 7-0 in April since becoming a Yankee. Not that that means much, considering he was winless in both June and August last year. Just an interesting nugget. Thursday’s win put him over .500 (25-24) as a Yankee.
* The rainout pushed Freddy Garcia’s season debut to Friday, April 15.
* In case you missed it, Derek Jeter passed Rogers Hornsby on the all-time hit list and is now 69 hits from 3,000.
Dig what I came across in Midtown yesterday…
Although this is a 2009 vintage I officially nominate this vehicle as the 2011 Bronx Banter Scoretruck. Can I get a witness?
Fresh direct from the Lo Hud Yankees oven comes news that Rafael Soriano is sorry that he split without talking to reporters last night.
Here’s tonight’s line-up:
1. Gardner LF
2. Granderson CF
3. Teixeira 1B
4. Rodriguez DH
5. Cano 2B
6. Swisher RF
7. Chavez 3B
8. Nunez SS
9. Molina C
Forget the chumps–or that Chump, in particular–here comes Fab Five Freddy and
Let’s go Yan-Kees!
Some baseball fans, like my buddy Joe Sheehan, are not interested in the private lives of the players. Joe doesn’t care a whit what goes on in the clubhouse. He cares about the performance on the field, period.
Now, the beat writers and columnists might not care about a player’s personal life either but if a player makes their job difficult, well, it will become a story. Last night, Rafael Soriano pitched poorly, helped cost the team a win, and then did not talk to reporters after the game, leaving his teammates to do the talking for him. This kind of behavior does not sit well with the press (and perhaps it doesn’t sit well with his teammates). If it continues, Soriano will eventually blame the writers for creating a story, and they, in turn, will shake their heads and say, “You made your bed, dude.”
For a guy like Joe Sheehan this is all distraction, a lot of noise signifying nothing. How will Soriano pitch in his next outing? That’s what counts.
We’ll be watching.
Three weeks into Yankees Spring Training, and we’ve learned this: New York is a Basketball town. Alex has written about this, and I remember Sweeny Murti talking about covering the Yankees while the Knicks made their run to the 1994 Finals. It’s true. The Knicks are the sleeping giant, and now with Carmelo Anthony, they will own the back pages unless something either major or catastrophic happens in Yankeeland.
This is actually a good thing, because Spring Training for the Yankees is basically a time suck. While it’s great to see baseball — hell, grass — after being battered with snow and sub-freezing temperatures for the better part of the last two months, doesn’t seem as cool when the biggest questions year after year are who the 5th man in the rotation will be, and who the 24th and 25th man on the roster will be.
Obvious storylines have been played up like they’re original concepts. For example:
* Derek Jeter reported to spring training and in his press conference intent to prove that last year was an anomaly and that the man who is above statistics is actually going to try to enjoy the moment when he reaches 3,000 hits this summer. In a year or two, he might need a position change.
It was surprising when the Yankees signed Rafael Soriano… mostly because Brian Cashman had been saying, pretty clearly, that he did not intend to. He explained that he didn’t want to give up a first-round draft pick for anybody besides Cliff Lee (and especially not a pick that would then go to the Rays), and that made good sense, especially since decent relievers can generally be uncovered from within the organization. Today, at the press conference officially announcing Soriano’s signing, Cashman admitted – or perhaps “confirmed” is the better word - that as many suspected (and several, including Buster Olney, previously reported) it was not ultimately his call. Per Joe LeMaire, on Twitter:
Yankees GM Brian Cashman acknowledges he did not recommend signing of Soriano. Says final call was Hal Steinbrenner’s.
Cashman: “I just didn’t think it was an efficient way to allocate our remaining resources.”
That’s not surprising, as the Soriano contract is very much not Cashman’s style – not, as he says, an efficient allocation of resources. But I was under the impression that Cashman had successfully wrested control of the Yankees’ baseball decision, except perhaps in the case of a blockbuster like Alex Rodriguez’s most recent signing. And while of course Hal Steinbrenner owns the team and has a right to have input on how his money is spent, I find it puzzling that he would choose to interfere here, in the case of a middle reliever. Signing Soriano is not likely to have a huge impact on the team either way – they’re overpaying for him, but not by a crippling amount, and it’s unlikely to prevent the Yankees from making whatever other moves they feel they need to. Still, it seems like a weird thing for Hal to overrule his GM on. It’s a George kind of move.
Meanwhile, in further disturbing news: we also learned that Cashman not only considered Carl Pavano as a plug for the Yanks’ starting pitcher gap, but (per LoHud) had several discussions with The American Idle’s agent. Yipes! I choose to see this as just a sad, transparent attempt to make Andy Pettitte come rushing back into the Yankees’ arms…
UPDATE: Oh gosh – per WFAN (via Hardball Talk) the Yanks actually made an offer! One year, $10 million, supposedly. “Carl, how would you like to hear 50,000 people screaming contemptuous insults at you every fifth day…”
Some thoughts on the Rafael Soriano signing…
Soriano has a checkered injury history, and there is a better-than-average chance that somewhere in the course of his deal the Yankees will pay him to soak up the post-surgical sun. Despite this, the worst-case scenario is that they have a very qualified eighth-inning pitcher who can close on the off chance that Mariano Rivera needs to rest/is injured/suddenly pitches his age. Still, the Yankees had good bullpen resources and a lot of additional options for the pen in whichever of their 900 starting prospects they choose to demote from the rotation and groom for middle relief. Further, as good as Soriano is, he’s only going to give you somewhere between 60 and 75 innings, and as bad as some of the relievers looked in the 2010 postseason, those innings aren’t going to be so much better than what the holdovers would have delivered that the extra outs really justify the move. There has to be another shoe yet to drop for this move to make sense.
In terms of the 2011 team, there are no complaints. The Yankees had plenty of money to spend, and they certainly upgraded the back end of the bullpen. This will lead to a greater enjoyment of the 2011 season. The Yanks might win a few games that they otherwise would have lost, and we will all be a little less irritable the next mornings. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is what this means for the 2012 and 2013 teams.
…In Soriano the Yankees get an excellent reliever who can help lockdown the endgame. It cost them a lot of money relative to his potential contribution, and it cost them the chance to draft a young player. If he stays healthy and locks down the eighth inning before sliding into the closer’s role for the final year of the deal, it might end up working out. But knowing what we know now, about relievers in general and Soriano specifically, I’m not too excited over this deal. Though I realize I’ll sleep that much easier during the 2011 season.
Ovet at It’s About the Money, Stupid, Jason likes Soriano but isn’t wild about losing a draft pick to the Rays.
Soriano has been one of the 15 best relievers in the game during the last three seasons, so this isn’t exactly Kyle Farnsworth redux (although it is eerily similar to Steve Karsay, another injury-prone pitcher who happened to be the fifth-best reliever in baseball by fWAR over the three seasons preceding his signing with the Yankees in 2002), but it’s still a pretty ugly deal. To focus on the positives for a moment, the Yankees’ 8th-9th inning endgame should be quite treacherous for opponents to deal with, although that’s also assuming they’re able to deliver Soriano and Mariano Rivera a lead — no sure thing with the uncertainty in the rotation.
And that’s probably the aspect of this deal that I find most critical. The money’s bad, but the greater problem is that Brian Cashman still hasn’t done anything about the gaping hole also known as the Yankees’ fourth and fifth starters. As literally every single person on my Twitter feed has noted, the silver lining to this move could (and should) be the rightful move of Joba Chamberlain back to the rotation. There is literally no reason to keep him in the ‘pen now. Unfortunately Chad Jennings already spoke to someone with the Yankees, and apparently there have still been no internal discussions about moving Joba back to the rotation. Here’s holding out hope that perhaps that’s just another “we won’t surrender a draft pick for a relief pitcher” red herring, but if they were planning on converting Joba back to a starter I’m not sure why they’d be playing it this close to the vest.